Jacko Poli is a singer/songwriter hailing from Leeds, England. His music is what you would describe as indie/alternative pop and you can hear the influences of classic English songwriters like Lennon/McCartney and Ray Davies with more modern influences like Elbow. Vocally, he sounds a little similar to Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Martin and New Order’s Bernie Sumner, though has a style very much his own.
In 2011, he began work on his debut album The Chords for No Noise with producer Grant Henderson and multi instrumentalist Luke Hirst. That album was released in 2012 to critical acclaim and he has kept with the same production team for this second album, Jagged Recollections. It consists of eleven tracks, all self-penned.
First track (and first single) Because It Burns is a fine start. It begins with distorted guitar and a swirling beat that any Madchester band would have been proud of, then develops into a well constructed indie/pop song that bursts into an anthemic, instantly memorable chorus after a brooding verse of subtle organ and rhythmic guitar stabs. Flourishes of trumpet peppered throughout the song add musical colour and a touch of Dexy’s style exuberance.
Lines Of Love is somewhat more towards pop than indie, a piano and acoustic guitar led medium paced song that shows a reflective, wistful side to his songwriting that surfaces again later on the album. Grant Henderson’s backing vocals complement Poli’s lead singing nicely on this one.
You Are is the heavier end of his musical oeuvre, featuring brooding low-end guitars and distorted vocals on the verse, before exploding into a powerful chorus aided by lead guitar work that adds bite to the sound. A definite potential single, in my opinion. Fourth track Above The Ceiling is another melancholy pop track that ruminates on lost opportunities and being held back by fear: “It could have been different, should have been brave, didn’t try, so what’s the use? Never got to see it through…”.
Slow Mo, the fifth song, continues the melancholy mood, this one a poignant picture of a relationship ending, in 6/8 time. His vocal performance is particularly good here, capturing the awful moment of heartbreak perfectly. This is the sort of song that Coldplay would kill for, but this is much more affecting than their anodyne balladry. The chorus is one of the finest I’ve heard for a while, and it’s my personal favourite on the whole album.
Chinatown is a real change of pace, with a reggae/ska vibe that brought to mind The Clash classic Rock The Casbah. The bursts of Mariachi-style trumpet really add to the musical flavour and provides the perfect contrast after the two preceding downbeat songs. Seventh track R.I.O.T. begins like another emotive relationship song, with a melodic piano introduction. Lyrically though, as the title suggests, it covers different territory and steadily builds into a powerful wall of sound. The song is a comment on the growing social unrest in Britain: “Revolution is turning ugly, get your backs against the wall…”. It’s the measure of a songwriter as to whether they can switch from the personal to societal/universal and he makes the grade on that score.
I Cling To You is another example of finely crafted songwriting in which he excels, this one with some lovely ascending guitar lines that brought to mind Travis and antipodean 90’s group Crowded House. The vocal melody is again very memorable and the subtle details in the music reward repeated listening.
Ninth track Fly is just piano and vocal, another moving ballad about the fragility of love and the importance of making the most of the good times. Like Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Jacko has the ability to deal with emotional subject matter that avoids being trite or cliché, as it easily could be in the wrong hands.
Enemies of Freedom is an unexpected track, a minute long piece of musique concrete that features a rather prescient vocal sample about technology being used to restrict our freedom. This switch from personal to societal then becomes interplanetary with the final track U.F.O. It’s a pleasingly quirky track to finish on, a return to the leftfield indie rock sound of earlier tracks (such as You Are) about the rather unusual theme of alien abduction: “She was taken by a U.F.O., the birds are singing cos they know what’s goin’ down….”.
Overall, this is a highly accomplished and enjoyable alternative pop album. It carries on the great English tradition of making inventive yet accessible music that runs the gamut of human experience without appearing contrived, from the romantic to the political. It is a perfect example of finding higher quality music outside the mainstream, and shows more variety than most, both musically and lyrically. Those who find themselves unsatisfied with chart fodder may find this album hits the spot, and it deserves both critical and commercial success.
Verdict: 8.6 out of 10